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China, Auto Industry Stride Forward with Clean Energy Transition

As the Obama administration’s climate change pages disappear from the White House website, scientists scramble to backup precious climate data and resources, and a new world order starts taking shape in the United States, China and the auto industry continue to push forward with clean energy initiatives.

As the Obama administration’s climate change pages disappear from the White House website, scientists scramble to backup precious climate data and resources, and a new world order starts taking shape in the United States, China and the auto industry continue to push forward with clean energy initiatives.

First, China’s National Energy Administration has announced that it has canceled plans to build more 100 coal-fired power plants across 13 provinces, directing the country away from polluting forms of energy generation. The plants, many of which were already under construction, would have generated a combined output of 54 gigawatts.

The move signals an important step forward for China in meeting its 2020 goal of limiting coal-fired power generation capacity to 1,100 gigawatts. The addition of the 103 new plants would have pushed capacity over the 1,100-gigawatt mark, creating an unnecessary surplus of coal power.

The suspension of the power projects, which are worth approximately US$62 billion, could have the potential to hurt China’s economy, but it’s being viewed as critical in order to wean the country off coal — which accounts for the majority of China’s power supply — and make the shift to more renewable sources such as wind and solar.

"Stopping under-construction projects seems wasteful and costly, but spending money and resources to finish these completely unneeded plants would be even more wasteful," Greenpeace told Reuters.

Despite the news, China still has a long way to go. Electricity generated from coal is a major source of greenhouse gases and the associated pollution plagues China’s air quality. Coal is still preferred by grid operators at state-owned power companies and is building more capacity than it needs — but as this new announcement illustrates, China has still come a long way.

Meanwhile, thirteen leading energy, transport and industry companies have launched a global initiative to voice a united vision and long-term ambition for hydrogen to foster the energy transition.

Meeting at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, the Hydrogen Council is made up of CEOs and Chairpersons from various industries and energy companies committed to help achieve the goal of reaching the 2 degrees Celsius target as agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The companies currently involved are Air Liquide, Alstom, Anglo American, BMW Group, Daimler, ENGIE, Honda, Hyundai Motor, Kawasaki, Royal Dutch Shell, The Linde Group, Total and Toyota. The Council is led by two co-chairs from different geographies and sectors, currently represented by Air Liquide and Toyota.

The Council is determined to position hydrogen among the key solutions of the energy transition. Hydrogen is a versatile energy carrier and does not release any CO2 at the point of use as a clean fuel or energy source, which makes it particularly attractive for the transition to a clean, low-carbon energy system. Hydrogen technologies and products have significantly progressed over the past few years and are now being introduced to the market. The Council will work with, and provide recommendations to, a number of key stakeholders such as policy makers, business and hydrogen players, international agencies and civil society to achieve these goals.

“The 2015 Paris Agreement to combat climate change is a significant step in the right direction, but requires business action to be taken to make such a pledge reality. The Hydrogen Council brings together some of the world’s leading industrial, automotive and energy companies with a clear ambition to explain why hydrogen emerges among the key solutions for the energy transition, in the mobility as well as in the power, industrial and residential sectors, and therefore requires the development of new strategies at a scale to support this,” said Benoît Potier, CEO, Air Liquide.

“But we cannot do it alone. We need governments to back hydrogen with actions of their own — for example, through large-scale infrastructure investment schemes. Our call today to world leaders is to commit to hydrogen so that together we can meet our shared climate ambitions and give further traction to the emerging Hydrogen ecosystem.”

During the launch, members of the Hydrogen Council confirmed their ambition to accelerate their investment in the development and commercialization of the hydrogen and fuel cell sectors. These investments currently amount to an estimated total value of €1.4 billion/year. This acceleration will be possible if the key stakeholders increase their backing of hydrogen as part of the future energy mix with appropriate policies and supporting schemes.

"The Hydrogen Council will exhibit responsible leadership in showcasing hydrogen technology and its benefits to the world. It will seek collaboration, cooperation and understanding from governments, industry and most importantly, the public. At Toyota, we have always tried to play a leading role in environmental and technological advances in the automotive industry, including through the introduction of fuel cell vehicles. Moreover, we know that in addition to transportation, hydrogen has the potential to support our transition to a low-carbon society across multiple industries and the entire value chain. The Hydrogen Council aims to actively encourage this transition," said Takeshi Uchiyamada, Chairman, Toyota.

A report commissioned by the Council entitled How Hydrogen Empowers the Energy Transition further details hydrogen’s potential, and sets out the vision of the Council and the key actions it considers fundamental for policy makers to implement, to fully unlock and empower the contribution of hydrogen to the energy transition.